By Deb R. Brimer
Redeveloper Jim Lake can write a book about red tape. Another year has come and gone since Jim Lake Companies (JLC) purchased the historic Ambassador Hotel in 2015 to redevelop into chic apartments, and the only visible sign of progress is that the once-grand 115-year-old landmark just got another year older.
According to the Dallas Morning News, JLC initially planned to start construction around the middle of 2016 after moving through the state and federal historic landmark processes, but the Ambassador didn’t receive official designations until the end of 2018.
The only things that move slower than history are the processes for preserving it, it would seem.
Built in 1904 as the Majestic Hotel, The Ambassador is the oldest luxury hotel still standing in Dallas. Located in The Cedars neighborhood on the southern edge of Downtown, the stately six-story structure was a skyscraper in its day. Between an underground speakeasy where the elite gathered during Prohibition and famous guests like Presidents Theodore Roosevelt, William Taft and Woodrow Wilson who walked the halls, the hotel’s storied past is embedded deep in Big D lore.
Though the hotel underwent renovations in 1932 and the 1980s, JLC’s redevelopment goal is to restore the iconic property’s historic character and vibe while adding an edgy new component. The residential shift to micro lofts will offer the first tiny house living in the city’s urban core as well as trendy affordable housing.
Despite the lack of movement, scaffolds, and sawdust at The Ambassador, progress is being made behind the scenes that entails a huge number of moving parts.
Steve Owen, JLC Project Manager, said the current construction hold up is related to the company requesting the City of Dallas to amend the thoroughfare plan at the St. Paul Street connection to Ervay Street by abandoning part of St. Paul.
According to Ashley Eubanks, assistant director of the Real Estate Division of the Sustainable Development and Construction Department for the City of Dallas, JLC filed the dual applications in late 2017. Though her department is handling the abandonment issue, the City’s Transportation Department is charged with amending the thoroughfare plan, which demands a review and sign-off from TXDOT, DART, utility companies, and several City departments.
Ambassador Street Improveme… by on Scribd
JLC is financing the abandonment, and once all the I’s are dotted and t’s are crossed, it will own and control the property that has separated The Ambassador from Dallas Heritage Village at Old City Park the past few years.
Lake refers to both efforts as neighborhood revitalization. Not only will removing that tiny chunk of St. Paul Street give loft tenants and neighbors alike more walkable access to the museum and park, it will restore The Ambassador’s original grounds.
2017_06_16_AMBASSADOR 16 by on Scribd
Owen and Eubanks are both optimistic that these city issues can be finalized this year so JLC can begin construction. As for Lake, he’s already moved a trailer on the property.
“We’re ready to get started and reconnect [The Ambassador] to the park,” he concluded.